Interim position in Adams County leads Pratt to withdraw from race for state’s attorney in Hancock County

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Natasha McBride speaks with Public Defender Christopher Pratt before the start of her sentencing hearing in August 2023. | File pool photo by Matt Hopf/The Herald-Whig

QUINCY — Christopher Pratt announced on his campaign Facebook page Wednesday morning he is withdrawing from the race for state’s attorney in Hancock County.

“I apologize to the people of Hancock County and the Hancock County Republican Party for the timing of this decision,” Pratt wrote. “Recent developments within my current office have shifted key issues for the present and immediate future.”

Pratt was named chief public defender in Adams County last week on an interim basis. He replaced Todd Nelson, who announced this month his intention to resign on Feb. 15

Pratt has been with the public defender’s office since 2016. He told Muddy River News last week that his first task in his new role is “trying to salvage what is left.” The office at one time had seven attorneys. It is currently down to three.

Pratt’s future in the office figured to depend on the March 19 Hancock County Republican primary, where he was a candidate for state’s attorney against incumbent Bobi James. He announced his campaign in December 2023. No Democratic candidates filed for the office.

Pratt declined to be interviewed for this story, instead offering a prepared statement.

“My appointment as interim chief public defender for Adams County has given me the opportunity to take the lead in rebuilding our office in the immediate future and potentially beyond,” Pratt wrote. “Unfortunately, the increased responsibilities related to that appointment, combined with my other current obligations, has made me realize I will not be able to devote the proper amount of attention to my campaign in Hancock County, including familiarizing myself with the county and its citizens.

“I have no desire to provide inadequate representation to Hancock County, which I would be doing if I proceed with my campaign. Based on my experiences with Hancock County’s residents up to this point, it is clear they and their county are deserving of candidates and elected officials who can devote their entire attention and dedication to them.”

Pratt, 46, has lived in Quincy his whole life except for when he attended law school at the University of Illinois. He and his wife, Crystal, were ready to make the move north. Had he been elected, Pratt would have been in charge of a staff with two full-time attorneys and two other full-time employees in a county of 18,000 people.

Now the challenge before him is to rebuild the staff in Adams County.

“I look forward to the challenge and opportunity of restoring the Public Defender’s office to its complete form, including the recruitment of talented, qualified attorneys and staff,” Pratt wrote. “I thank everyone who has supported and contributed to my campaign. I wish the people of Hancock County and my former opponent, Ms. Bobi James, good luck in the future.”

James was appointed by the Hancock County Board in November 2022 to fill the remainder of the term of Rachel Mast, who took a position as the state’s attorney in Henderson County.

Pratt worked for Schmiedeskamp, Robertson, Neu and Mitchell for seven years before joining the Adams County Public Defender’s Office. He graduated from University of Illinois College of Law in 2007.

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